Research Handbook on Child Soldiers
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Research Handbook on Child Soldiers

Edited by Mark A. Drumbl and Jastine C. Barrett

Child soldiers remain poorly understood and inadequately protected, despite significant media attention and many policy initiatives. This Research Handbook aims to redress this troubling gap. It offers a reflective, fresh and nuanced review of the complex issue of child soldiering. The Handbook brings together scholars from six continents, diverse experiences, and a broad range of disciplines. Along the way, it unpacks the life-cycle of youth and militarization: from recruitment to demobilization to return to civilian life. The overarching aim of the Handbook is to render the invisible visible – the contributions map the unmapped and chart new directions. Challenging prevailing assumptions and conceptions, the Research Handbook on Child Soldiers focuses on adversity but also capacity: emphasising the resilience, humanity, and potentiality of children affected (rather than ‘afflicted’) by armed conflict.
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Chapter 12: Social reintegration following armed conflict in northern Uganda: how former child soldier young mothers use symbolic resources

Fiona Shanahan and Angela Veale


This chapter explores how former child soldier young mothers utilized symbolic resources to mediate their reintegration and that of their children and to integrate their sense of self before, during and after their abduction experiences. The participants were 11 formerly abducted young mothers aged 18–24 years. An autobiographical interview was used to explore coping during a time of war, moving from one place to another, becoming a mother and how each young mother experienced changes in her life. Data were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis, which is an idiographic method that aims to provide detailed examinations of personal lived experience. While most accounts of child soldiers tend to dichotomize pre- and post-war experiences, this analysis seeks to explore developmental trajectories of continuity and the integration – rather than the dissociation – of experiences. Young women drew upon symbolic resources developed in civilian settings to adapt to conditions of extreme hardship within the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Similarly, upon release from the LRA, they continued to draw on these same symbolic resources in their post-war lives. This continuity in the use of symbolic tools is central to understanding how former abductees adapted to adversity and cultivated resilience.

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